Hu to Meet With Congressional Leaders, S. Korea Accepts North’s Idea for Talks

BY News Desk  January 20, 2011 at 8:32 AM EST

Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Obama at a news conference Wednesday at the White House. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The morning after a lavish state dinner in his honor, Chinese President Hu Jintao is headed to Capitol Hill, where he is expected to face a more skeptical audience than at the White House. He’ll meet with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Several senators have introduced legislation to push for sanctions on the currency issue, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referred to President Hu as a “dictator” before quickly modifying his comments. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, referred to him as an “emperor.”

On Wednesday President Hu and President Obama discussed business issues and held a joint news conference (watch here). Though human rights and economic disagreements were raised, the presidents largely focused on common ground and shared goals in the bilateral relationship.

South Korea Accepts North’s Proposal for Military Talks

South Korea announced it has accepted North Korea’s proposal for high-level military talks between the two countries. A spokeswoman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it is seeking “responsible measures” in response to the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March and the shelling of Yeonpyeong island in November, and assurances that North Korea will cease further provocations. Defense ministers for the two countries last met in November of 2007.

Special police patrol at the port of Yeonpyeong Island; Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

After their meetings in Washington, Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Obama both emphasized their desire for stability on the Korean peninsula. The United States has a close military alliance with South Korea; China is North Korea’s main benefactor.

Two Car Bombs Target Pilgrims in Iraq

At least 45 people are dead and more than 130 injured after two car bombs targeted pilgrims participating in the Shia festival of Arbaeen. The latest attack comes after several deadly incidents in Iraq in recent days, including an attack on Iraqi police recruits in Tikrit that killed an estimated 60 people.

Rep. Giffords Able to Stand; Going to Rehab Center in Houston

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head and can now stand with assistance. She will relocate to a rehabilitation center in Houston, most likely on Friday. Doctors have described her recovery as “not normal” after such a serious injury. Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, planned to hold a news conference Thursday with updates on her condition.

On Wednesday a federal grand jury indicted accused shooter Jared Lee Loughner on three charges of attempted murder, with further formal charges likely. Some of the charges could result in the death penalty if he is convicted.

Insurgent Attack Kills Four Soldiers in Thailand

An estimated 40 separatist rebels in southern Thailand attacked a military base and killed four soldiers. Thailand has 60,000 soldiers in the region to fight an ongoing Muslim separatist insurgency, a conflict that has killed an estimated 4,300 people since 2004.

The rebels are calling for independence in an area annexed by Thailand more than a century ago. The central government has extended a state of emergency for the area by an additional three months amid concerns over human rights abuses by the army.